Sliding Indicator System

The prospect of having to set up a new rig when  fishing in the river can be quite daunting and so as a consequence we fish on regardless, even though the selected method is proving to be unsuccessful. Then there is this nagging feeling in the back of one’s mind that maybe another technique would work better.
As fly fishers we now have a wide choice of techniques available to us when we fish rivers for trout and grayling. We are all familiar with dry fly fishing with a tapered leader when fish are  rising. Then there is New Zealand style when a nymph is suspended from a dry fly, such as a klinkhamer, and more recently we have seen the introduction of a plethora  of ways of bugging using weighted nymphs including French, Polish and Czech styles, each with their  own particular type of setup.
So the question is, how can we change from one method to the other, without having to make up a new leader, with its unique indicator component and  dropper arrangement. Fortunately, there is a neat solution available, which uses a sliding indicator system (SIS).
However, first things first, one of the decisions that we have to make when fishing with a tapered leader is how should we connect the leader butt to the fly line. Loop to loop connection is ugly and can cause hinging , whilst a nail knot means that we lose a short length off the  tip of the fly-line each time we tie on a new leader. So I now use a simple  connection which is shown in the diagram below, which allows the leader to be replaced without losing any fly line.

Line leader connection
A short length of hard , plastic tube is slipped over the fly line; this should have an internal diameter which is  just larger than the diameter of the line tip.  A simple, overhand knot is made on the end of the fly line to prevent the plastic tube from slipping off. A tapered leader is selected (I normally use a 12ft long 5x or 6x nylon tapered leader) and the thin end is threaded through the tube. Wetting the tip so that it sticks to the fly line can be helpful.
The tapered leader is pulled through to the butt section , where a two-turn grinner knot is tied to give a sliding connection between the fly line and the  leader.  Setting the knot by holding the leader and gently pulling the tag end will cause a “soft” knot to form . Later when it comes to removal of the tippet, the butt can be slipped up the line and through the plastic sleeve so that it can be snipped for removal.

My tackle comprise a 10ft #2 Sage ESN nymphing rod and a DT #2 line, which I find  is suitable for all river techniques, including dry fly and heavy nymph fishing.

The Sliding Indicator System (SIS)

The sliding indicator system has been developed for effective river fishing, with minimum adjustment for fishing a team of nymphs at different depths or for changing over to a  dry fly or a nymph suspended from a surface fly.

The same basic fly-fishing rig can be used in most situations,  with a reduction in tippet wastage and the annoying need to store the tangled lengths of material for possible reuse or disposal  later. Not to mention the  time taken to  make up new leaders when deciding to try another tactic, with the natural reluctance to making changes and hence the reduced chances of catching fish.

The sliding indicator system, is pulled over a standard tapered leader, and it can be easily slid up or down and then locked into place.

Because the indicator fits snugly around the leader it has no adverse effect on casting nor is it prone to hinging, unlike some other types of indicators which are joined to the leader with knots and can be thicker. There is also direct contact with the fly and so it is easier to detect takes.

Fitting the SIS

Using the Sliding Indicator System3

1) First choose a suitable tapered leader which can be 6x to 4x (3-5lbs) and 9ft or 12ft long and join the butt section to the fishing line.

2) Take the sliding indicator out of its packaging and feed a generous length   of the thin end of the tapered leader through the pulling loop. (3) Pull the leader through the indicator and then dispose of the pulling line. (4) Pull the indicator up the leader until it stops. Push the coloured sleeves together in the centre of the indicator, hold them between finger and thumb and then slide the indicator up the tapered part of the leader. (5) It can then be locked the taper to any position up to the end of the butt section by pulling the coloured sleeves to either end of the indicator.

6) Tie a 24ins length of tippet, with the same diameter, onto the thin end of the tapered leader. A double blood knot is good for doing this because it will transfer energy to fly, efficiently, during turnover. (7)  A dropper can now be attached by using a slip knot, which is  tied in above the tippet knot. Ready prepared, reusable droppers can be supplied as part of the SIS.

This now provides a setup for a team of  two weighted nymphs. The fishing depth can be determined by adjustment of the indicator to the selected point along the leader. This can be repositioned at any time, within a few seconds, after pulling the sleeves back in the centre. It can also be greased up so that if floats, when fishing at longer distances.

If required a second length of tippet can be tied on to the first one and another dropper can be used to provide a rig for 3 nymphs.

The indicator can be slid up to the end of the leader butt section and the droppers can be removed (or left in place) when the tactics are switched to using a dry fly or a surface fly and nymph.

It is quite a simple matter to revert back to nymph fishing, when this is thought likely to be more productive.

Summarising: The Sliding Indicator System provides:-

  • Easy and quick to fit on a range of tapered leaders from 4x to 6x
  • Fully adjustable along the tapered section of the leader
  • Immediate fishing depth change for optimum results
  • Self locking when pulled straight after adjustment for depth
  • Highly visible with bright yellow body and contrasting red tags
  • Straight-through connection from line to fly for ease of casting and turnover
  • Provides good tactile and visual bite detection
  • Remains on the leader irrespective of fishing technique used
  • Reduces the need for re-rigging and minimises tippet wastage
  • Non-obtrusive; approximate dimensions 4ins(10cm) long x 0.04ins (1mm) dia.

The sliding indicators are made for me by a fishing friend Giuliano Masetti


About John Symonds

I mainly fish the rivers Wye,Usk and Ithon for salmon, trout and grayling. Also fish in Ireland on the rivers Moy, Suir and Blackwater. Specialist skills photography and graphic design relating to fishing, casting and fly-tying. Qualifications include Advanced Professional Game Angling Instructor (APGAI) single and two-handed fly rods, International Federation of Fly Fishers (FFF) two handed casting instructor and Level 2 Angling Trust Coach.

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